When constructing a dynasty team, it’s important to find players who offer immediate production in order to make your team a contender. It’s just as important though to consider the future value of individual players. For example, would you feel comfortable paying an exorbitant price for a player you are almost certain will be worth less a year from now? These are often referred to as declining assets and they are players I try to avoid.
Recently, I was examining our June dynasty ADP data and began considering how the top tier might change over the next several months. We see the ebbs and flows of player value during the off-season, but nothing affects player value like real game action that will begin in just a couple of months. My first thought was to begin penning an article similar to the 2016 one round rookie mock article I wrote back in the spring. I quickly began to realize an article like this may not have the value and impact that I would hope, given it’s just one man’s opinion. That line of thinking led me to where it so often does…Twitter. Over the span of several days, I posed three questions to my Twitter followers and the response was very informative.
My first question dealt with players we, as a dynasty community feels safe with when considering the value beyond the current season. While it’s always nice to win now, it is also crucial to plan ahead for the future of year team. Here was my first question:
It’s January 2016. You are doing your first dynasty startup of the year. Name the players (max of 12) you ARE CERTAIN will be 1st rounders.
— Ryan McDowell (@RyanMc23) June 28, 2015
Like most questions, the way one might answer this question depends greatly on dynasty strategy, personal feelings about the players involved and other varying factors, but you’ll notice I did stress that the answer should only include players you are certain would still be among the top 12, or first round of a dynasty startup draft a year from now. Before I share the results, I will say I had two people respond indicating they do not feel certain enough about any players to include them on this list. I do understand that line of thinking as every NFL player has risk, which must be factored into the evaluation of them as dynasty assets.
For the record, I received 26 responses and will include the percentages associated with each player. On to the data…
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Obviously, there is a lot that can be taken away from this extensive list. But let’s start at the top.
- The top six players are all wide receivers, which should come as no surprise given the trend that has overtaken dynasty football of building teams around youth and receivers.
- Dez Bryant is considered the “safest” player to maintain his elite value over the next season. I obviously understand this as Bryant has been considered one of the top three dynasty assets for the past year, at least. There does always seem to be a sect that is worried about Bryant, be it for off-field issues or the recent concern he may not remain with the Cowboys long-term and could possibly hold out into the regular season. Regardless of those ideas, Bryant edges out Odell Beckham in this survey.
- I am somewhat surprised to see Julio Jones finishing third on this list with 21 mentions, considering he’s never finished among the top five wide receivers in any season. Of course, this is mostly due to injuries, but that has to be part of our evaluation.
- Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown comes in fourth on this list and he seems tailor suited for this type of question, considering his amazing consistency displayed over the past two years. There is little reason to think that won’t continue and while he’s largely been unable to overtake some of the taller wide receivers in dynasty ADP, he earned a lot of respect in this contest.
- Next up is Bengals’ receiver AJ Green, who I expect a bounce back year from in 2015. Evidently, many others do as well considering he finished fifth in this exercise with 15 mentions. I am somewhat surprised considering his dynasty ADP has been closer to the end of the first round much of the off-season.
- Next, we have a three-way tie with each player receiving 15 votes, or mentions, as certain first round startup picks in 2016. First is the sophomore receiver Mike Evans who showed glimpses of elite talent during his rookie year but lacked consistency that is required from a fantasy star. With the addition of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, expectations are sky high for Evans going forward.
- Tied with Evans, we have quarterback Andrew Luck and running back Le’Veon Bell. Each represent the first move away from the receiver position, and as young proven performers, are at the top of their respective positions. I still have issues with building around running backs in general and Bell’s early season suspension does not exactly instill confidence. I’m also in more of the late round quarterback mindset, which means taking Luck in the first round would just not feel right. With that said, he has consistently been among the first twelve off the board in nearly every off-season mock since January and with some added weapons around him in Indianapolis, there’s no reason to expect his value to fall.
- Finally, with 13 votes, we have the Patriots’ superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski. I’m actually surprised Gronkowski landed in this spot, ninth among all vote getters, considering he’s been routinely drafted in the top three of startup drafts. There has also been a push from several in the industry claiming Gronkowski should be valued as the top overall asset in dynasty. Of course, his injury history hurts that movement. I also think many are just hesitant to make a tight end, even one as talented and productive as Gronkowski has been, the cornerstone of their dynasty franchise.
Before we move towards some of the players who received few votes, I want to take a step back and look at our current top 12, based on the cumulative ADP from January through June.
Of these 12 players, nine have already been mentioned, meaning our respondents consider them relative locks to retain their value throughout the next year and into 2016 startup drafts. Three players – Demaryius Thomas, Alshon Jeffery and Calvin Johnson have yet to be mentioned – this tells me the consensus feeling about these players is that they carry a major risk to lose value over the next several months and, in general, those are not players I want to invest in using my early picks.
Let’s get back to the remaining vote getters:
- Another three way tie gives us two of those 2015 first round picks, including Thomas and Jeffery, along with Packers’ running back Eddie Lacy. Obviously the two wide receivers still carry a tremendous amount of value and could still be among the top 15 or 20 dynasty assets without being first round picks in 2016. The concern about Thomas seems to be mostly related to the eventual departure of quarterback Peyton Manning. While I understand this line of thinking, Thomas performed at a high level before Manning joined the team and I don’t think Manning’s retirement signals the end of Thomas’ run as a fantasy standout. Jeffery’s predicted fall from the first round is a bit surprising – this could be related to a few things. First, the loss of offensive guru Marc Trestman and the unpredictability of quarterback Jay Cutler. Another factor could be the addition of Kevin White and the possible affect he could have on Jeffery’s role in the Bears’ offense. Finally in the group, Lacy has been a solid producer and has been just outside the top 12 in most of our off-season mock draft and it appears that’s what many expect to happen again in 2016.
- There’s yet another three-way tie with just three votes and that group includes DeAndre Hopkins, Jeremy Hill and Aaron Rodgers. 12% of the respondents project this trio to reach first round startup status, which seems like a possibility for Hopkins, who has been steadily gaining value over the past months. I’ve already mentioned my disdain for selecting running backs early, so I am biased in my vision of Hill climbing up the ranks to the top 12, but a Le’Veon Bell-like sophomore season would certainly do the trick. Finally, I think Rodgers is the least likely to move into the top 12. His current ADP is 18.8, but there are so many owners who agree with me and prefer to wait on their quarterback that I project a tough road for Rodgers to gain value over the next year. He could easily retain his second round startup status, or perhaps fall into the third round, but should have several seasons remaining as a top quarterback.
- There is a large group of players who were mentioned either once or twice, including Allen Robinson, Jamaal Charles, Randall Cobb, Adrian Peterson, Jordy Nelson, Brandin Cooks and Melvin Gordon. I’ll focus more on each of these players in the next article of the series, but will mention that veterans like Charles, Peterson and Nelson almost never move into the first round after falling out of that range. Nelson specifically has never had a first round ADP and I don’t expect that to change in 2016.
In the next article of this series, I’ll take a look at some sleepers to be first round startup dynasty picks in 2016.
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…the unpredictability of quarterback Jay Cutler. It isn’t just his erratic play. You also have to consider that if he has another mediocre year he’s likely gone. That leaves an even bigger ? at the QB spot.